If you’ve seen any of Darren Aronofsky’s other movies (i.e. Pi or Requiem for a Dream), you know that they are not going to be easy to follow. Partly that’s what fans (and I count myself in that group) like about them. An Aronofsky movie seems to be inventive and fresh. So when he decides to tell the story of three parallel couples separated by hundreds, and thousands of years, the concept alone is pure fanboy-bait. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz star as the epic couple, Tommy and Izzi (and various alternates of those names). First they are the Queen of Spain and a conquistador, questing for the mythic tree of life. Then they are a modern medical researcher and his writer wife: he’s trying to find the cure for her brain tumour. Finally (in the most fantastical setting) he is a cosmic monk, ferrying the tree of life to its destination in a distant nebula, she is a spectre of past lives, and possibly the spirit of the tree as well. (I know… Didn’t I warn you?)
While the story of Dr. Tommy Creo seeking to cure his wife Izzi seems to be the central piece, there is constant cutting to the conquistador in Central America, and to the monk in space. It’s like each remembers the other and they’re all connected. Also intertwined is the myth of the tree of life and its origin as having sprung from the body of a primal First Father after his death. Another connection is that writer Izzi has studied the Central American mythos and her final work is a story about a conquistador on a quest to find the tree of life. As you might imagine, to continue describing the plot details would be a disservice to a film like this. Most of it is moody and dreamy.
Hugh Jackman is pretty good as all three characters, though after the Prestige he is starting to make a habit of playing obsessed characters (just once I’d like to see someone express grief and anger without smashing things). Rachel Weisz is suitably lovely as the object of Jackman’s eternal devotion, but frankly she doesn’t have that much to do. She plays it warm, tragic, and worthy of pure immortal love. Visually, most of the movie is very dark (as we know from any number of movies and tv shows, these days people who feel a lot of emotions don’t like to turn on the lights at home, or even in the research labs where they work.) There’s a lot of stark lighting on Jackman’s face: blurring the line between divine lights and just ceiling lights in the hallway. If you’ve seen any bits from the movie trailer, you’ll know that the space scenes are very fantastical and trippy (there’s a sphere floating into space with a large tree inside it, while clouds and rain made of light are falling all around).
In the end, I don’t think I really know what the message of this film is concerning life and death and rebirth and immortality. The ending is a bit inconclusive and it’s not as if there was that much discussion throughout the movie. The viewer is really left to not only draw his own impressions, but his own conclusions as well. Nevertheless, this whole experience leaves a sort of tingly feeling in your brain after it’s over. (3.5 out of 5)